Tag Archives: pollo

Pollo Borracho (Drunken Chicken)

15 Sep

Usually when I have several pounds of organic boneless chicken thighs from Costco, I make pollo guisado (Latin stewed chicken) and eat some now, freeze some for later in pint containers. Very convenient and beloved by all (must be the beer and wine that go into it?  https://hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/abuelitas-stew-comes-through-%C2%A1un-guiso/)

But I just didn’t feel like it. At. All. No, no, no.

So instead, I made about three pounds worth of Pollo Borracho or Drunken Chicken, so called because it incorporates whatever the local hooch is in your part of Latin America. In the following version, adapted from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Mary Urrutia Randelman and Joan Schwartz (1992 Wiley Publishing),  the booze is white or light rum (I used Don Q Cristal, a Puerto Rican white rum, which is — by the way — the only acceptable rum for a Cuba Libre).

This recipe does take a long time to simmer, but the active part is very minimal and very basic. The texture is beautiful; it starts to shred of its own accord (I’m thinking quick black bean and chicken quesadillas…). Best of all, Leandro called me the best cook in the world after trying it (which means it is safe to pack the leftovers for his lunch tomorrow. Hurray!). I will experiment with freezing some for future reference!

Pollo Borracho

3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (you may use pretty much any chicken parts. Bone-in is fine, but do remove the skin)

¼-1/2 tsp salt

¼-1/2 tsp oregano

Black pepper to taste

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thick

1 bay leaf

¼ Cup dry white wine

¼ Cup light or white rum

¾ Cup pimiento-stuffed green olives (about 20) drained

Wash the chicken and pat dry, then season with salt, oregano and pepper. Heat olive oil at medium high (in a large skillet that can accommodate all the chicken and that you can cover) until fragrant and then brown the chicken thoroughly on all sides. Remove chicken and reserve.

Lower the heat to medium low. Put onions and garlic in the skillet and sauté until wilted. Add bay leaf, wine, rum and olives. Stir to incorporate, then add chicken pieces, stir, cover and cook on low for 45 -60 minutes. If your skillet is oven-proof, you can cook it in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes instead. Remove the bay leaf and serve with white or yellow Latin rice.

NB: If you are more of a tequila person and want to get a bit more elaborate, try this Mexican recipe by my friend and inspiration, the peerless Zarela Martínez  http://www.zarela.com/2010/pollo-borracho-drunken-chicken/ It was one of the most-requested dishes at her eponymous Manhattan restaurant. It includes raisins and almonds!


Zesty, Zingy, Zarela – Reinterpreting Pollo al Limón

4 Feb

Fab cookbook by my hero - ¡Zarela!

I have a weakness for what Puerto Ricans call limones del país or “local limes”, the ones you may know as Key limes, one of many varieties of Citrus aurantifolia, native to Southeast Asia. They are the small, thin-skinned ones, sometimes mottled, often more yellow than green, definitely more acidic and sweet than the thick-skinned ones more commonly found in my New York area supermarkets or as woefully tiny and bedraggled triangles of peel, drowning ineffectually in bar drinks. 

My great-aunt Titi Quicio used to make me limonada from the ones from the tree in her yard in Mayagüez — every yard worth a damn back then had a lime tree for luck and on principle — as well as chickens and any number of useful medicinal herbs planted in glorious, battered, colorful, rusting tin cans – and that sweet-tart zing of acid and sugar syrup in a glass clinking with ice cubes and sweating into the disintegrating paper towel wrapped inevitably around the bottom remains one of the most powerful flavor memories I possess. Anything that comes even close sends me straight back to childhood places from which I wish I didn’t have to ever return.

So whenever I see a green net bag of those little round babies in a store, I have to buy it, no matter the price. Once I get home, however, I have no idea what to do…My Cuba libre consumption (the difference between a rum and coke and a Cuba libre is that the Cuba libre has lime; a Cuban might tell you that the difference is that there is no such thing as a free Cuba, but we’ll leave that alone) has dropped to nothing in the years since I left Puerto Rico and the likelihood of my making limonada in the middle of winter is decidedly small.

So I slice one open and suck out the juice, prompting much pleasurable wincing and squinting and squirting of salivary glands. Then I agonize over how not to waste the rest.

Fortunately, last week when limones del país showed up in my local supermarket, I thought of my hero, mentor and friend, Zarela Martínez.

Zarela, who grew up killing rattlers with a lariat on a ranch in Mexico, toughed her way through a bad marriage to haul her twin boys to New York and make a dramatically wonderful and interesting career in restaurants (Her eponymous restaurant on NYC’s 2nd Ave @ 50th & 51 has been going strong for 22 years!), making PBS programs and writing wonderful books. I met her through the James Beard Foundation Awards when she and her son, Food Network hottie Aaron Sánchez, hosted a few years back, and I am grateful that we have been friends ever since.

She is utterly candid, hard-working, stylish and just fabulosa. And her book: Zarela’s Veracruz, was just the thing, because Mexicans know exactly what to do with limes without making life difficult.

So here is my adaptation of her Chuletas de Pollo al Limón, made with things I had around the house…I used my limes, but whichever kind you find in the supermarket will work just fine. Honestly, my adaptations resulted more from mistakes (I am not very good at following recipes), but that just proves how flexible and resilient this one is. And the leftovers – very adaptable too!

Pollo al Limón Verde – Lime Chicken

 (adapted from Chuletas de Pollo al Limon, Zarela’s Veracruz)

4 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp Worcestershire (chicken or classic) sauce

(if you have Maggi sauce, change the soy/Worcestershire  comb to 2 tsp soy sauce and 1 tsp Maggi sauce)

¼ cup lime juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1.25 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, pounded to half the thickness

Mix soy sauce, Worcestershire or Maggi sauce, lime juice and olive oil in a cover/sealable container big enough to hold marinade and chicken together and marinate for at least an hour (if you have time)

Heat a skillet until fairly hot and place thighs in it with room to spare (reserving marinade). Unless you have a pretty big skillet, you’ll have to do it in batches. Sear to white on each side, then cook an additional  5-6 minutes on each side, lowering heat to medium. When all the chicken is cooked, turn up the heat in the skillet, pour in reserved marinade and boil for a minute. Pour over chicken and serve.

(I loved this dish both straight from the skillet and as leftovers. I sliced it up and added it to a vegetable stir-fry at the end after adding a bit of soy sauce to the vegetables, just to warm up the chicken and it added great substance, texture and taste. This chicken is also good cold with mayo/mustard in a sandwich, wrap or salad.)

Abuelita’s Chicken Stew comes through: ¡Pollo Guisado!

17 Dec

(pronounced poh-yo gheesadoh)

We kind of stayed longer than expected at my neighbor’s across the street; it’s what happens when the kids are playing nicely together (meaning: not killing each other yet) and the cup of tea morphs into a glass of wine and the conversation gets spicy and grown-up. Then their pizza delivery arrives and my son of course wants and gets a slice too and her husband is about to get home for dinner and the pizza he is expecting is rapidly disappearing…

Fortunately, I had just made pollo guisado (chicken stew), so I grabbed a plastic thingy from my neighbor and ran across the street to my refrigerator and packed up enough for the two grown-ups, thus alleviating my mortification when the little man demanded – and got – a second slice. This is a no-brainer dish and uses chicken thighs – tasty and cheap! My neighbor specifically requested that I blog the recipe, so here it is.

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